Grain bowls: Get creative with what you have!

Anyone close to me knows that I have an obsession with CAVA. They're like Chipotle, but with actual spices. They make it pop. 

I thought that my passion for grain bowls was a recent phenomenon. But if I think about it, it began in childhood. My mother was introduced to Vietnamese food in the 80s, and got hooked on spring rolls. If pho was treatment for a winter cold, then bun, or vermicelli bowls, were a fresh summertime respite from the heat.

It was the whole package: 

  • Grain: rice vermicelli noodles
  • Vegetables: crunchy lettuce, bean sprouts, fresh torn basil, cilantro and pickled daikon and carrots
  • Protein: Char-broiled meat, crushed peanuts

When I lived in L.A., I had a couple of Korean roommates. They introduced me to Korean food like bibimbap, their version of the grain bowl. In Honolulu, I frequented a food truck that sold fresh poke bowls on the North Shore. And pictued below is a trashy but delicious mac and cheese bowl - a cure-all for hangovers.

mac and cheese bowl

Grain bowls are a perfect meal: Convenient, colorful and complete. Have you ever tried to whip up one up at home? You can use whatever you have in the kitchen, and it's easier than you think. As long as the flavors are complimentary, you can shake it up using everyday items! Presentation is a fun component as well, and you'll get creative slicing up colorful toppings.

I love a good theme, so below I've listed some "starter" bowls; safe combiations that will be the gateway drug for even more exciting iterations: 

Vegan: Quinoa, grilled zucchini, raw shredded carrots, chick peas and spring onions. Drizzle with tahina and a squeeze of lemon

Mexican: Spanish rice, avocados, grilled bell peppers, jalapenos, pork carnitas, crumbled cojita and topped with salsa

Mediterranean: Saffron rice, grilled lemon chicken, chopped cilantro, pine nuts, romaine, crumbled feta and topped with a dollop of hummus 

Chinese: Cold noodles, sesame chicken, grilled egglant, sauteed bok choy, sesame seeds and a few dashes of soy sauce

rice vermicelli bowl

As with many of my posts, I encouage you to have fun. Mix and match. Invent new toppings. And of course, share your successful experiemts with us on the socials - we can't wait to see your creativity!

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